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  • Cappucinos and Coconuts

    by Shariq
    14th February, 2006 at 5:27 pm    

    We’ve all heard the term coconut before and to be honest I’ve always thought it to be rather crude. So when I found the word ‘cappucino’ in the New Statesman special report on India I was quite intrigued. Apparently in India, a cappucino is someone who is ‘white and frothy’ on the outside but with deeply conservative and traditional sub-continental ‘values’ on the inside.

    One situation which exemplifies this is that of desi men who have long term relationships with white women and then leave them (or sometimes continue to see them on the side), to get an arranged marriage. Of course this phenomenon isn’t limited to desi’s. The archetypal rich Arab who ‘enjoys’ himself in the west while placing severe constraints on his wife and daughters at home is a good example. Neither is it a new phenomenon - the father in Naguib Mahfouz’s classic Palace Walk is the ultimate fun-lover with his friends and tyrant at home.

    Why is this important? Because all too often traditionalists attack liberals when in fact they are attacking cappucino’s just like liberals often attack traditionalists when in fact they are attacking ‘maulvis’. All of this muddies the discourse and doesn’t allow for clear analysis and debate reagarding the many social questions people face when they encounter different cultures, either through immigration or globalisation. I would be very interested in who people think are some famous cappucino’s. At the risk of being scorned, may I suggest Imran Khan.

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    Filed in: Culture,Current affairs,South Asia

    20 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. mellow — on 14th February, 2006 at 5:32 pm  

      I love how the ads by google come up related to the topic.
      We’re talking about Asian identity issues and being offered coffee makers :o )

    2. Jay Singh — on 14th February, 2006 at 6:01 pm  

      Imran Khan is the archetyple cappucino but he isn’t really a playboy any more is he? I thought he had gone hardcore religious.

      Lots of those Bollywood actor types are Cappucinos. In fact Bollywood sometimes seems like one big Cappucino festival - all about the Indian middle class reconciling their westernised lifestyles with all that stuff about being good to your parents and respecting your family. Storyline for half of the movies these days - especially the ones made by Karan Johar.

    3. reformist muslim — on 14th February, 2006 at 7:32 pm  

      Imran Khan has always had this religious element in him and even now is apparently going out with Goldie Hawn.

      On the point about reconciling westernised lifestyles I think there is a distinction between people who act differently but think the same (capuccinos) and those who incorporate different thinking into their identity irrespective of how they act (positive cultural fusion).

      I don’t really watch bollywood movies, but I’m guessing they fall into the former category.

    4. Bikhair — on 15th February, 2006 at 12:52 am  

      Reformist Muslim,

      You gotta explain the reformist part for me.

    5. Sunny — on 15th February, 2006 at 1:38 am  

      Lol at Imran Khan! I don’t see how thats controversial, that guy is a known playa. Though I didn’t think Jemima was all that beautiful.

      Saying that, I think the arguments between traditionalists and liberals is more than just about cappucinos and coconuts… though in the Asian community it might be. In the wider world is about values and what govt policies to support.

    6. goethe girl — on 15th February, 2006 at 3:21 am  

      What in the heck is a desi? And a maulvis? Excuse me, but I’m from the American South (despite the tag, which refers to my area of scholarship).

    7. Sunny — on 15th February, 2006 at 4:21 am  

      Desi - someone of South Asian origin…

      Maulvi - a religious teacher…of sorts.

    8. SajiniW — on 15th February, 2006 at 12:03 pm  

      Cappuccino’s are cowards - at least a maulvi, coconut, traditionalist and true liberal are true to themselves.

    9. Petals just fell from heaven — on 15th February, 2006 at 12:16 pm  

      All these labels make everyone look like idiots.

      What’s next, questions on surveys and applications forms asking
      ‘Would you classify yourself as?’
      a) Cocunut
      b) Cappuccino
      c) Complete utter Latte
      d) chai tea

      Marketing and Survey construction is my strongest point am an IT buff.

    10. goethe girl — on 15th February, 2006 at 12:53 pm  

      Thanks, Sunny.

    11. reformist muslim — on 15th February, 2006 at 3:51 pm  

      Petals, I appreciate your concerns about classification. I do think that such terms which are easily understood by everyone are useful analytical tools when looking at different types of behavious.

      Sunny, I think perceptions of Imran would make an interesting study as he seems to have pulled of the miracle of being popular with everyone despite of baggage which would have doomed other careers.

      Bikhair, I’m not going to give you a definition. Hopefully when you’ve seen more of my idea’s you’ll get a sense of where I’m coming from.

    12. AH — on 15th February, 2006 at 7:26 pm  

      Kudos to Imran Khan for living his life precisely the way he wanted to, without equivocation or qualification. He enjoyed himself, built a great career, accomplished a truly generous act in building that cancer hospital of his that serves millions for free and then married a woman he loved at the time even though he knew it would affect his political career.

      The religious arbiters of society loathed his free living, and then his-horror or horrors-marriage to a “Jewess”. Why did their opinion make no difference?

      Because he was himself without apologies.

      Well, I am overstating the case. He was also a cricket maestro, and as you know better than anyone Reformist, in Pak he will always be a cricket God. And that will overcome almost any other “flaw”.

      But nevertheless, I think the man is interesting primarily for living exactly as he has wanted at every stage of his life, and doing it rather well.

    13. El Cid — on 15th February, 2006 at 8:45 pm  

      Another take on Coconut is Bounty Bar.
      But what about Wigga? I never liked that one!!

    14. Rohin — on 15th February, 2006 at 8:58 pm  

      From other parts of the world:

      Twinky/banana - Chinese person who’s yellow on the outside, white on the inside.

      Oreo - Black out, white in.

      I don’t know what the hell I’d be classified as.

    15. Petals just fell from heaven — on 15th February, 2006 at 9:04 pm  

      Guys u forgot;

      KitKat White chocolate- white on the outside, brownish on the inside.
      Milky Way- brown out, white in.
      Toffiffee- brown on the outer layer, creamish in the middle but brown in the centre.

      I’m also confused to how i’d be classified,

    16. mirax — on 16th February, 2006 at 3:15 pm  

      “such terms which are easily understood by everyone are useful analytical tools when looking at different types of behavious”

      Nope, sorry reformist. I don’t think so. Capucinno/banana et al are terms carrying the most banal and stereotypical meanings- next to useless in any intelligent analysis of behaviour, as you can see for yourself with the way it has degenerated to its natural conclusion of ‘ what am I? Tofffee or Kitkat?’. In addition to carrying a degree of supercilious judgement I personally find distasteful. Use obnoxious shorthand and the discussion’s peters out.

    17. El Cid — on 18th February, 2006 at 10:47 pm  

      and how could I forget choc ice?

    18. Sunny — on 18th February, 2006 at 10:51 pm  

      I want to be classidied as something delicious :D

    19. Siddh James — on 18th February, 2006 at 10:59 pm  

      I’m a coffee and Kahlua. Sweet, brown and intoxicating.

      hmmmm, baby, shake your thang.

    20. El Cid — on 18th February, 2006 at 11:01 pm  

      im a gelati di tutti frutti

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